You know, you can call me mad, or anything else for that matter but there is a small but very familiar guitar motif that keeps surfacing throughout this album. I'm sure there is the tiniest of a chance that I think is nicked from 'Sometime World', a track from Wishbone Ash's 'Argus' album.
Just a thought...
...And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of The Dead, or just ...Trail Of The Dead for the purposes of this piece, have been going since 1994. This, 'Lost Songs', is the Texan band's eighth album and was recorded in Germany: at Horus Sound Studios in Hannover if you must know.
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Originally, it had been claimed that the band's name came from an ancient Mayan prayer though Conrad Keeley, the band's resident multi instrumentalist, later admitted that had been a lie perpetrated, saying it was "an attempt to entertainment". So, 'Lost Songs' is just another album about war, tyranny and apathy by a band that is just a bunch of piss taking head fucks then? Oh joy!
Yet, you've got to laugh because there is another source that suggests the name's origin might actually lay in one of Hitler's more obscure speeches. I suspect that is not quite what the band had in mind. Not so fucking clever now, eh boys?
With a name such as this you would justifiably expect the band to be very much from the more extreme end of Metal's spectrum; justifiable but wrong. I'll let our friend Keely tell you about it and I quote here, "...the music (on 'Lost Songs') was partly inspired by the apathy to real world events that has plagued the independent music scene now for over a decade. It was also inspired by artists such as the Cure, KARP, Ros Sereysothea, Human League, Hildegard von Bingen, and a few others. We feel that because the lyrics can say more about the album than we could, we would simply share them with you."
And sure enough, the promo bumpf comes complete with a full set of lyrics so you too can indulge in the bands ultra cleverness. Keely continues...
"We would like to dedicate our efforts to Pussy Riot, and any and all artists who have attempted to exercise their creativity under the oppression of government, as well as the endemic oppression of an indifference to passion present in our mainstream culture."
Very profound I'm sure, but what lurks under all this superior intellectualization; does the album justify such bumptiousness?
Surprisingly, yes it does. 'Lost Songs' is a bit of a grab bag of styles that flirts with pop punk as much as heavy as fuck stoner grunge, dropping in a few other nods to their past as it goes. The band has also previously cited Fugazi, Melvins, Bikini Kill, Unwound, Sonic Youth, Led Zeppelin, Rush, Genesis, Pink Floyd, Public Enemy, Yes, J.S. Bach and Vivaldi as influences and you will hear some of them here in one form or another.
On first listen 'Lost Songs' sounds artily discordant and contrived leading some to accuse the band of heartlessness, of possessing no soul, but give it a chance and 'Lost Songs' will divulge, if a tad reluctantly at first, its hidden depths.
The overall sound has the stridency of U2 without the polished sanctimonious façade or Foo Fighters scratching a prog itch with no extra kit. 'Lost Songs' is a lean and mean high octane album that packs a punch with the opening triumvirate of 'Open Doors', 'Up To Infinity' and 'Pinhole Cameras' pretty much setting the pace.
As stated, there are a couple of vaguely alt proggy numbers like 'Flower Card Games' and 'Heart Of Wires'. The title track, 'Awestruck' and 'Time And Again' provide chiming alt diversions but over all this is really just a good old fashioned Rock n' Roll album.
'Lost Songs' is a focused, song-by-song album that ditches much of the symphonics of previous albums and delivers instead a collection of stripped back, concise, well written rockers. Although you could feasibly dip in and pick out a few tracks to listen to in isolation, the album better lends itself to being listened to in its entirety.
So, what we have here is an excellent Rock n' Roll album that is heartily recommended then. Yet, it is not all sweetness and light.
All this alternative 'activism' is very admirable and I'm sure the band's aims are pure of heart and fair of deed but Rock n' Roll is not an apprpriate tool to spread sedition and revolution. The 'dissident aggressor' thing does not work using a medium that prides itself in its fuck you attitude as a vehicle to promote a cause.
The corporate machine is far too efficient and ruthless for Rock n' Roll to be anything other than entertainment for the great unwashed. Punk tried but look what happened there; its figureheads now write memoirs (lucrative? Of course) and advertise fucking butter.
Sure, some still claim it can be a medium of rebellion etc, but when has rock ever changed anything? Oh it helps raise money and awareness but as Russia's Pussy Riot showed recently, Rock n' Roll just is no match for the corrupt forces of politics, law and the military, the hand servants of the world's true power base.
In short, a simple Rock n' Roll band has not got a hope in hell. 'Lost Songs' is an excellent album but perhaps the band should leave the sermonising to the politicians, churchmen and police and concentrate on what they do best; rocking in the real world.
There is something else that is not quite right here; what the band says and does don't quite connect. As dissident as they may appear, the virtuous indignation and right-on attitudes cannot hide the band's seeming willingness to embrace the grasping techniques of the corporate profit maximising apparatus.
'Lost Songs' comes in several formats, the single CD edition (the subject of these scribblings), the double deluxe CD edition and the retro vinyl double album edition. All have different track listings so if you are a bit of a ...Trail Of The Dead anorak you are going to have to buy all the formats to get the full complement of songs. There is an MP3 download too but this appears to be just the basic CD.
Politics and dubious double standards aside 'Lost Songs' is worth getting as it rocks like a bastard but what ...And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of The Dead should try to remember is the dead await us at our graves and that one fact is life's great leveller; a fact of life that no amount of worthiness, manipulation or money can influence.